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ARTS: Rhizome project begins production

ARTS: Rhizome project begins production

By Dora Guerrero
Bridge Staff Writer
Published Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024

A multidisciplinary campus experience is underway, organized by a new visiting art professor. The project, called Rhizome, is more than a single piece of installation art–it encompasses visual art, philosophy, biology, dance, music, theater, and more.

Texas A&M International University Visiting Assistant Professor of art Crystal Wagner, a contemporary interdisciplinary artist from Los Angeles, unveiled the early stages of her newest art piece Rhizome on Jan. 23. Throughout her 10-year artistic career, she has created installations around the world. She has worked for corporations, galleries, museums and public spaces.

Assistant Professor of art Jesse Shaw cuts metal framework for Rhizome.
Juan Carlos Puente | Bridge
Assistant Professor of art Jesse Shaw cuts metal framework on the Rhizome art installation project on Feb. 2 outside the Center for the Fine and Performing Arts.

Wagner’s most recent installation work is currently visible in Belgium, as part of a mural. Wagner said her installations are “all over the country, all over the world.” 

She accepted employment with TAMIU because she wanted to bring her creativity and practice to a community. When she saw the Laredo opportunity, she took it.

“It felt like the right time and the right moment,” Wagner said before noting how the department and the University have been open to her ideas and offered support.

The TAMIU community has also been supportive of her creativity and ideas. Wagner said the project could have only happened in Laredo because everyone is so involved.

Rhizome is expected to be a large-scale installation that emulates forms and structures found in nature.

“Rhizome, in general, is a root system,” Wagner said. 

In biology, a root system grows, and then different nodes split off and they grow into something else.

“In philosophy, it’s a non-hierarchical system of growth,” she said.

Wagner works with students on the Rhizome project.
Juan Carlos Puente | Bridge
Visiting Assistant Professor of art Crystal Wagner, right, works with a couple students on the Rhizome art installation project on Feb. 2 outside the Center for the Fine and Performing Arts.

Plans for the installation include the utilization of fabric created from recycled plastic bottles that are pulled from the ocean and collected around the coastline. Those bottles are turned into fabric that is then woven into the structure and the structure becomes an immersive world that will take over the Center for the Fine and Performing Arts.

The project is expected to finalize on March 19 with the help of the public and TAMIU students from different departments showing up every Friday. Any interested persons may join from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fridays; participation is not limited to art students.

The full Rhizome performance, which includes contemporary dance, musical and theater performances is scheduled for April 12. At the end of the performance, the fabric will be taken down and turned into reusable tote bags and distributed to the Laredo community to reduce landfill waste. The installation is open to TAMIU students and the public.

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